For temporary approval as foster carers of approved prospective adopters, see Fostering for Adoption / Early Permanence Placements Procedure.
AMENDMENTSection 10, After the Fostering Panel's Recommendation was updated in April 2018 to clarify that the decision as to the suitability of the applicant must be made within 7 working days of receipt of the panel's recommendation and final set of panel minutes – The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 4 and Standard 14 (14.9) Fostering panels and the fostering service's decision-maker.
In relation to every request received, a record will be kept containing the following information:
All requests for information made by telephone or letter will be acknowledged as soon as possible. The target for this is 5 working days.
An information pack with covering letter is sent to enquirers giving details of the next information session. Potential applicant are given a choice of attending an information session in the first instance or, if preferred, a home visit from a Social Worker. Where possible potential applicants will receive an initial phone acknowledgement from the recruiting Social Worker.
Applications will be considered from married couples, unmarried couples or single people. In the case of couples, there is no minimum requirement on the length of the marriage. In all cases however, the Panel will need to be satisfied about the stability of the relationship.
Applications will be considered from people of any or no religious persuasion.
Applications will be considered from people of any race or culture.
The minimum age for foster carers is 21 years. There is no set maximum age, and applicants' suitability will depend on the type of resource they are offering. In normal circumstances foster carers will be expected to retire at age 70, and applicants aged 68 or over may not be deemed suitable.
Gender / gender identity are not a determining factor when considering is a person is suitable to foster.
Applications will be considered from people of any sexuality.
Applicants do not need to be in part or full-time employment and no one will be excluded solely on the grounds that they are unemployed. If both applicants work full-time then consideration will need to be given to whether they have time to foster.
All applicants will be required to have a full medical and undergo any further tests/checks that may be required by the agency's Medical Adviser.
If individuals smoke (including e-cigarettes) it will be necessary to assess how this would impact on children placed, and could mean that an applicant is not suitable to foster. Children under 5 will not be placed with carers who smoke and the assessing officer must be confident that they do not smoke in the home.
Anyone who is assessed as a Person Posing a Risk to Children (including people who have been cautioned or convicted of an offence against or involving a child, including a specified offence under Schedule 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933) will be precluded from fostering.
Other convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence, how long ago it was committed and the context of the offence.
Hull City Council welcomes applications from employees who wish to foster, however, it is mindful to consider fully any conflict of interest in assessing and approving members of the ILAC team as foster carers.
Applicants do not have to have British Citizenship, but should normally be resident in the United Kingdom.
Normally child minding and hosting of foreign students as lodgers by prospective applicants or existing foster carers would not be encouraged.
Ideally, each child over 3 years should have a separate bedroom. However, consideration will be given to room sharing depending on the age of the children, their needs, the size of the room, their views and wishes and other factors. Where it is proposed that children will share rooms this must be agreed with the placing authority.
Babies may share the carers room until 18 months of age.
A health and safety check should be carried out using the Fostering Network form.
A risk assessment should also be carried out regarding the implications of sharing bedrooms.
The foster home will also be thoroughly checked to ensure it provides appropriate and safe accommodation for the child, as well as safe transport.
In determining the suitability of the household, the question of whether any household pets pose a danger or health risk to a child, will be taken into account. A risk assessment must be conducted in regards to pets. Where a dog comes within the definition of a dangerous dog as defined by the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (as amended), this will automatically disqualify a household from being approved.
All applicants will be expected to attend preparation groups before their application is presented to Panel.
All applicants will be expected to attend Panel, when their application is being presented.
Stage 1 of the assessment process is intended to provide the decision maker with basic information about the applicant to enable clearly unsuitable applicants to be sifted out without unnecessary bureaucracy or expenditure of time and resource by the fostering service or the applicant. More detailed information is collected in Assessment - Stage 2. In Hull we collate the information required for Stage 1 and 2 concurrently.
Where a person applies to become a foster carer and it is decided to assess their suitability to become a foster carer, the following information must be obtained as soon as reasonably practicable relating to the applicant and other members of their household and family:
Records compiled by another fostering service, or an adoption agency, can be used to inform the new assessment of the applicant's suitability to foster. For instance, if previous partners have been interviewed in the past to verify facts, and the current assessing social worker is satisfied with the records in respect of these interviews, it should not be necessary to repeat the interviews if no further information is required. The assessing social worker should, however, satisfy themselves as to the quality and continuing relevance of the information before using it to inform the current assessment.
Where, having regard to any information obtained, it is decided (by the Agency Decision Maker) that the applicant is not suitable to become a foster carer, the applicant must be notified in writing with reasons. This notification may be given whether or not all of this information has been obtained. Such a notification may not be given more than 10 working days after all the information has been obtained. The applicant has no right to make representations about the decision or to have their case reviewed under the Independent Review Mechanism. However, the applicant must be informed that they can complain via the fostering service's complaints process if they are unhappy with the way in which their case has been handled. The complaints process should address whether or not the applicant's case has been handled in a reasonable way, rather than the question of the applicant's suitability to foster.
Where all the specified information has been obtained and notification has not been given within 10 working days that the applicant is not suitable, then the applicant's assessment must follow the procedures set out in Stage 2.
Note that Stages 1 and 2 of the assessment process are carried out concurrently, but the Stage 1 information must be sought as soon as possible, and the decision about whether an applicant has successfully completed Stage 1 must be made within 10 working days of all the information required in that stage being received.
On receipt of the completed application form, consent to medical checks and authorisations for the statutory checks/references, the administrative staff will input the date of the application and details of the household members on the electronic records.
The Fostering Panel must make its recommendation on the application within 8 months of the applicant first applying to be assessed.
The manager will book the applicants on to the Foster Carer Preparation/Training Course - see Section 6, Preparation Groups.
Sharing information about a person that is held in their existing foster carer or adopter records is permitted for the purposes of informing a new assessment of a person's suitability to foster or adopt. For instance, if previous partners have been interviewed in the past to verify facts, and the current assessing social worker is satisfied with the records in respect of these interviews, it should not be necessary to repeat the interviews if no further information is required. The assessing social worker should, however, satisfy themselves as to the quality and continuing relevance of the information before using it to inform the current assessment.
Information that should be shared, upon request, in order to inform a new assessment of a person's suitability to foster or adopt includes:
Information should only be shared with the informed, explicit consent of all parties referred to in the information, including young people where they have sufficient understanding to consent to the sharing of their information (if they do not have sufficient understanding, the consent of a person with Parental Responsibility would need to be obtained). This means that the person giving consent needs to understand why their information is to be shared, what will be shared, who will see their information, the purpose to which it will be put and the implications of sharing that information.
If consent is refused, the current fostering service or adoption agency should consider whether there is any information in the records that is a cause for concern. Any information about an applicant's conduct or suitability to foster/adopt that has caused concern should be shared even if the individual has refused consent. If there are no such concerns, and the individual has refused consent, information should not be shared. This may require documents to be redacted to remove information relating to individuals who have refused consent.
Requests for access to information should be accompanied by the written consent of the applicant to the sharing of their information.
The receiving service should acknowledge the request within 2 working days, seek consent from all others referred to in the information within 5 working days and the information, redacted where necessary, should be provided within 15 working days.
The administrative staff will arrange for the following checks to be made on all members of the household aged 18 and over: Disclosure and Barring Service, Probation, Education, Children's Services (including the List of Children with a Child Protection Plan), and whether the applicants have a right to work in the UK. Where the applicants live or have lived outside the local authority area, the checks must be made with the local authority where the applicants live/have lived. These checks should be recorded including the date when the checks were made.
Where the applicant or any member of the household has been known to Children's Services, information should be obtained from the relevant social worker.
Where applicants have recently moved to the UK (within the last 10 years), checks may also be made on all members of the household aged 18 and over. The application process for criminal records checks or 'Certificates of Good Character' for someone from overseas varies from country to country. For further information, see GOV.UK - Criminal records checks for overseas applicants.
In addition, where the applicant has school age children, the relevant school(s) may be contacted, with the permission of the applicant, for information regarding the applicant's ability to promote the child's education.
On receipt of the statutory checks, the administrative staff will update the electronic records.
Where the checks reveal that the applicant or a member of the household is a Disqualified Person (Foster Carer), see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure.
Where the information relates to an offence, which does not automatically disqualify the applicant, for example because the applicant is seeking approval in relation to a specific child only, the manager must consider whether the application should still proceed. Such convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence and how long ago it was committed. In a case where the conviction would usually disqualify an applicant, the case should be referred to the Fostering Panel and the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) for a preliminary decision - see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure. In any other case where there is doubt, an early referral should be made to the Fostering Panel and/or Agency Decision Maker (Fostering).
Information relevant to the application that has been obtained from the Disclosure and Barring Service may only be retained on the applicant's file for a limited period and should be destroyed when a decision is made on the application. The manager should note on the file that the Disclosure and Barring Service information has been destroyed and that the information led to a particular view, without citing the information itself.
Where the applicant has been a foster carer within the preceding 12 months and was approved as such by another fostering service provider, a reference must be requested from that other fostering service provider. There is no requirement to also interview personal referees (see below). However, additional verbal and/or written references may be sought from personal referees. If the previous fostering service, for whatever reason, does not provide a reference, interviews with two personal referees must be conducted.
Otherwise, each applicant will be asked to provide the names of 4 personal referees, who are adults, have known the applicant for at least 5 years and are not related to the applicant, and 2 other referees who may be family members or personal friends. All referees should be people who know the applicants well in a personal capacity. 3 referees will be written to from those provided by the applicants. 2 of these referees will receive an interview. It is the assessing social workers discretion as to whether further references should be sought in order to support their assessment.
Where there is a joint application, referees should know both applicants, or additional referees will be required.
A written reference must be obtained from each applicant's current employer regardless of the applicant's occupation. In addition, where the applicant has frequently changed jobs, written references should also be obtained from past employers.
Where the prospective applicant has made a previous application to foster or adopt, the relevant agency must be asked to confirm in writing the outcome of the application and provide a written reference.
The administrative staff will send requests for written references to each referee.
References will be gained for all positions where the applicant has previously worked in a voluntary or paid capacity with vulnerable adults or children.
On receipt of the references, the administrative staff will update the electronic records.
The applicants will be provided with the relevant medical form to fill in their details. This form is then sent to Kingston House medical centre who will invite the applicants to come in for a medical assessment. Once the assessment has been undertaken it will be passed to the Medical Adviser for comment.
Where the medical information suggests that the applicant may not be suitable for health reasons, this should be discussed in detail with the applicant(s) and withdrawal may be advisable at this stage. Additional advice may be sought from the Medical Adviser or the Medical Adviser may raise questions with the GP where this is appropriate. It may be necessary for reports from other health professionals also to be obtained and presented to the Medical Adviser and the Fostering Panel.
The attendance of applicants at preparation groups will form part of the assessment of their suitability as foster carers.
The Fostering Team has a rolling programme of preparation groups.
Preparation meetings will usually be planned to enable applicants to have at least 4 weeks' notice of their date and venue so as to encourage extensive participation.
Written invitations will be sent out to applicants.
Preparation groups provide an opportunity for the Fostering Team to find out more about the applicants and have a clearer idea of their strengths, areas for further work and any concerns which need to be clarified as part of the assessment process.
The groups are also aimed at self-assessment in that they enable applicants to find out more about fostering and help them discover their own strengths and weaknesses.
A report by the facilitators of the groups will be included in the assessment report presented to the Fostering Panel.
Whilst the Assessment - Stage One information is being obtained, and no notification has been given within 10 working days (of receiving all Part 1 information) that the applicant is not suitable to be a foster carer, the following must be undertaken:
(There are no specific regulatory requirements about the way in which assessment information must be collected or presented to panel).
Where, having regard to the information obtained during Stage Two, it is decided that the applicant is unlikely to be considered suitable to become a foster parent, not withstanding that not all the Stage 2 information has yet been obtained, a Brief Report may be prepared and submitted to the fostering panel in the same way as for a full assessment report (There is no prescribed length or format for a brief report).
In order to collate the information required for Panel, the assessing social worker will:
The assessing social worker will complete all parts of the Skills to Foster Assessment which will record all appropriate factual information and address issues including the applicants' understanding of the following areas:
The list is not exhaustive - other issues relevant to the individual applicant and their family may need to be addressed. The skills and personal qualities that need to be evidenced will be different according to the type of fostering the applicants want to do, e.g. babies and toddlers, short term or permanent.
The assessing social worker may also contact the previous partners of the applicants (taking care not to disclose confidential personal information about the applicant). Where there were any children of the relationship or where children were cared for jointly, the social worker will arrange to interview them face-to-face wherever practicable. All adult children of the applicant(s) living away from home may also be contacted.
Applicants will be encouraged to be actively involved in contributing towards the assessment, and supported to provide their own written report/portfolio for Panel to evidence their capabilities and to support their application.
The foster home will also be thoroughly checked to ensure it provides appropriate and safe accommodation for the child, as well as safe transport. Each child over 3 has their own bedroom or, where this is not possible, the sharing of the bedroom has been agreed by the placing authority. A risk assessment must be conducted in regard to pets.
The applicant must be notified that the case is to be referred to the fostering panel, be given a copy of the report and be invited to send any observations in writing within 10 working days beginning with the date on which the notification is sent.
At the end of the 10 working days, (or when the applicant's observations are received, whichever is sooner), the report, the applicant's observations on that report, if any, and any other relevant information obtained, must be sent to the fostering panel.
The information gathered during the assessment, the Preparation/Training Course and the checks and personal references, will form the basis of the assessment set out in the Skills to Foster Assessment Form.
Once the assessing social worker has completed a draft, it should be submitted to the manager for discussion in order to identify whether there are any issues that are unclear or need further work before the assessment is completed.
The final draft of assessment will then be sent to the applicants. The applicants should be asked to sign and return the report, if agreed, and/or send their comments in writing to the assessing social worker. It should be explained to them that they have 28 days to do this, (or they can be asked to sign a disclaimer stating they do not wish to take 28 days to comment) and that any written comments they make will be circulated to Fostering Panel members, with the report.
The Skills to Foster Assessment will then be passed to the manager to be endorsed and counter-signed.
The applicants should also be advised of their right to attend the meeting of the Fostering Panel, which considers their application.
The social worker will then send the Assessment, the applicants' written comments (if any), a full health report, the report on the interviews with the referees, the report from the local authority for the area where the applicant lives (if they live in a different local authority area) and any other relevant documents, to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the relevant Fostering Panel meeting.
All the relevant information (incorporating the applicant's portfolio, references, a full report on visits to the referees, full information about all the statutory checks, the Medical Adviser's report and second opinion report) should be sent to the Fostering Panel Administrator prior to the stated panel deadline.
At the Panel meeting, the information will be presented by the assessing worker responsible for the assessment and their Manager.
The date, time and venue of the Fostering Panel meeting will be communicated to the applicants as soon as possible, together with written information about the Panel process, who will attend and their respective roles. If the applicants know a particular Panel member, the applicants may request that the Panel member stand down. (Panel members are in any event expected to declare an interest in these circumstances - see Fostering Panel Procedure).
The applicant will usually be present at the Panel and will be encouraged to attend. Whether or not the applicant is present, their views and wishes must be presented fairly and accurately before the Panel within the documentation and verbally.
The Panel will consider the written report together with all the supporting documentation and any additional information presented verbally, and make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) regarding the outcome of the assessment.
The recommendation will be recorded in writing and, where approval is recommended, any limitations of the approval to named children (for example where the foster carer is a relative or family friend) or conditions as to the age range or number of children to be placed in the foster Home will also be specified.
Reasons for the recommendations and any conditions will be recorded in the Panel's minutes.
After the Fostering Panel has considered the report and made a written recommendation, this will be sent to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) who will make a decision as to the approval of the foster carers based on the Panel's recommendation. Where the application is approved, the nature and any terms of the approval must be also specified in writing.
Where a Brief Report has been submitted to the fostering panel, the Agency Decision Maker will, taking into account the fostering panel's recommendation, make a determination about whether to terminate the assessment or whether the full assessment should be completed.
The decision must be made within 7 working days of receipt of the panel's recommendation and final set of panel minutes and must be recorded, together with reasons.
If a decision is made to approve a foster carer, written notice of the decision and the terms of the approval will be sent to the foster carer as soon as practicable by the Fostering Service. A copy should also be placed on the foster carer's case record.
Upon approval, foster carers should be issued with an agreed form of identification to enable their role as a foster carer to be verified.
This section should be read in conjunction with Fostering Panel Procedures.
If information from Stage 2 of the assessment process results in the Agency Decision Maker giving a Qualifying Determination that they propose not to approve the applicants as foster carers, The applicant will be advised that if they wish to challenge the decision, they have a right to submit representations within 28 days of the original written notification of the decision to the Agency Decision Maker. In addition, as an alternative, they may exercise the right to apply to the Secretary of State to request a review of the decision by an Independent Review Panel under the Independent Review Mechanism. Any such application must be made in writing within 28 days of the decision and supported by reasons.
The foster carer will not have the right to request a review by an Independent Review Panel if they are regarded as disqualified as a result of a conviction or caution for a specified offence - see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure.
Where it is decided from information gained at Stage 1 of the assessment process that the applicant is not suitable to become a foster carer, there is no right to have the case reviewed under the Independent Review Mechanism.
If no written representations or notification of a request for a review are received within this period, the Agency Decision Maker will decide whether or not to approve the applicant as a foster carer (following a full assessment) or continue the assessment (following a Brief Report).
If written representations are received within the period, the Panel Adviser will arrange for the reports and other documentation to be reconsidered by the Fostering Panel, taking into account the written representations, and make a new recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering).
The Panel Administrator will advise the applicant within 7 days of the date of the Panel meeting when they can attend and their written representations will be considered. In these circumstances, applicants who wish to attend the meeting of the Fostering Panel can arrange for a friend or supporter to accompany them.
After considering the representations, the Panel will make a recommendation, which the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) will consider before a final decision is made.
If the decision remains not to approve the application, the manager will arrange for the applicants to be informed verbally within 2 working days. Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must be sent to the applicant by the Panel Adviser within 7 working days of the Panel meeting. Information about the Complaints Procedure must also be sent. A copy of the report to the Panel, the Panel's recommendation and the decision, with reasons, must be retained on the applicant's case file.
If the applicant decides to refer the matter to the Independent Review Mechanism, the relevant Panel reports, any new information obtained since the Panel meeting, a record of the decision made and reasons, a copy of the written notification of the decision and a copy of the Panel minute, if different, will be sent to the Independent Review within 10 working days of their written request.
The procedure for the Independent Review is operated by Coram Children's Legal Centre on behalf of the Department for Education. The applicant and two representatives of the fostering agency will be invited to attend the Independent Review.
After considering the representations, the Independent Review may make a recommendation, which the Agency Decision Maker will consider before a final decision is made.
Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must be sent to the applicant within 7 working days of the receipt of the Independent Review recommendation.
Where the decision is to approve the application, the procedure set out in Section 12, After the Approval will be followed.
Where an application is approved, the foster carer will be allocated a Supervising Social Worker who may not be the same as the Social Worker who completed the assessment.
The allocated family placement worker will request the foster carer to sign a Foster Care Agreement between Children's Social Care Services and the foster carer, which contains the information the foster carer needs to carry out their functions as a foster carer effectively. The foster carer will be given two copies for signature, and will retain one signed copy. The other will be kept on the foster carer's case record, together with the report and supporting documents presented to the Fostering Panel, a copy of the Panel's recommendation and a copy of the approval decision.
The Foster Care Agreement will contain the following information:
New foster carers will also be given their personal copy of the Foster Carer Handbook, which covers policies, procedures, guidance, legal information and insurance details.
The allocated family placement worker will continue to provide support to the foster carer up to, during and after all placements. All carers can access Hull Fostering Procedures on line at any time.
The supervising social worker will continue to provide support and supervision to the foster carer up to, during and after all placements - see Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure and ensure that they understand the need to undertake Disclosure and Barring Service and other checks and assessments on any new member of the household, and the need to repeat Disclosure and Barring Service checks on themselves every three years (unless they have subscribed to the Disclosure and Barring Service Update Service) - see Review of Foster Carers Procedure.
The Manager of the Fostering Service will maintain a register of all approved foster carers containing the following particulars:
The foster carer's case file contains their assessment, details of the Panel and Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) approval, signed Foster Care Agreement, record of support and supervision and a separate children's module (if child in placement).
Only valid for 48hrs